Does a Nashville MLB team make any damn sense? A brief investigation

While MLB tries to figure out if it can cobble together enough players for a shortened season amid the increasing number of players testing positive and opting to sit out the year, a different group of rich dudes are working on another possibly quixotic quest: landing a major-league franchise for Nashville. As you may recall from the before times, said rich dudes had previously drawn attention for speculation by announcing that their team that they don’t have would be named the Nashville Stars, then releasing stadium renderings that featured previously unheard-of crimes against geometry; there was also that rumor that the Baltimore Orioles could move to Nashville, which presumably wasn’t the wannabe owners’ doing, though since the report cited just “one rumor” as a source, it could well have been them.

Anyway, this week saw two separate headlines about Nashville’s MLB dreams:

The managing director of Music City Baseball is John Loar, who is a real estate developer (of gated communities in California!) and film producer (Teenage Paparazzo, an Adrian Grenier–directed documentary that according to one Rotten Tomatoes reviewer was “more thought provoking than I would have expected“) and looks like this:

I don’t normally like to make assumptions about people’s ethnicity, but I think it’s pretty fair to say that this guy is white.

Neither Stewart nor Loar, it turns out, said anything to USA Today about how the team would be majority Black-owned, but they did drop a whole lot of references to African-American things in hopes you won’t notice what the main owner and public face of the non-franchise looks like:

They plan to present MLB through a feasibility study and economic analysis why Nashville would be ideal for MLB. The plan is to build a 42,000-seat stadium, in honor of Jackie Robinson, with privately-funded money, and a surrounding mixed-use family sports and entertainment district.

“We have something unique here, and a way to unite the country,’’ said Loar, who also is creating a diversity oversight committee. “I really think MLB has a chance to be very proactive. We will honor the Negro Leagues with the name, the Nashville Stars. The connection to the Negro Leagues, diversity and inclusion is a big part of the foundation. We reached out to the black community here, our board is majority minority, and our current investors are over 30% diverse.

To recap: The stadium will “honor” Jackie Robinson, the Stars name will “honor” the Negro Leagues, and about a third of the individual investors (not a third of the shares, presumably) are “diverse,” however that’s being defined. To be charitable, one could say that Loar is reading the room well; to be less charitable, he’s a white guy trying to gain entry into the lucrative MLB owners’ club by portraying it as a way to “unite the country” around race.

None of which is likely to matter all that much to MLB, which will almost certainly select any future expansion franchises on the basis of 1) how much money an ownership group offers, 2) how big a media market it represents, and 3) see 1. On that count, Nashville scores pretty poorly: It’s the sixth-largest Nielsen market without an MLB team (behind Sacramento, Charlotte, Portland, Indianapolis, and Raleigh-Durham, plus Montreal, which as a Canadian city isn’t covered by Nielsen). It does have one of the better-attended Triple-A franchises, the Sounds, and is bigger than San Diego, Kansas City, Milwaukee, and Cincinnati, so you could make a decent case that it could be a marginal MLB market; however, you could make just as good a case for any of those other cities, so it’s hard to see why Nashville should be seen as at the top of any heap.

Also, MLB probably isn’t expanding anytime soon, though it’s possible that could change if owners decide they want a quick cash infusion to make up for Covid-related losses. More likely is that Thom Loverro is right:

A savvy negotiator creates leverage, and you can’t have leverage without other suitors. Maybe Loar is hoping that other MLB owners will be so happy with him for giving them a move threat candidate to shake in the faces of their current homes, they’ll eventually reward him with a team of his own? That would indeed be a kind of unity, but probably not the one most people would be hoping for.

Phantom Nashville MLB team releases stadium design that would require changing Earth’s orbit to work

The would-be owners of the would-be Nashville Stars MLB team don’t have much more than a team name and, uh, that’s pretty much it. But now they also have some renderings of what a Nashville MLB stadium might look like, and oh my goodness:

There is a lot going on here: the usual fireworks (in a location unviewable from the seats, which are empty anyway) and gratuitous spotlights. There’s also a quintuple-decker seating plan that, if this is remotely to scale, would put the cheap seats about 200 feet in the air, plus what initially looks like some sort of enormous curving sun shield in foul territory down the right field line — though honestly the stadium could use a sun shield in fair territory, given that batters would be facing almost due south, which isn’t normally done because then the sun is in their eyes. (The Detroit Tigers‘ stadium is close, but not as bad as this proposal; of course, it’s always possible the geometry of the rendering is off, given that it seems to have eliminated a nearly 90-degree curve in the Cumberland River at that point.)

Any other pretty pictures that aren’t quite as goofy?

That appears to be … a sold-out rock concert going on at the same time as a sold-out baseball game? Is there any world in which this would be a good idea? Did those fans on the hazardous-looking sky bridge buy tickets to the concert or to the ballgame, or does tickets to one get you access to the other for free? Do you have to choose which to watch, or does the band only play between innings and during pitching changes?

The pointless curving sun shield, meanwhile, turns out to be in fact a curving retractable roof. Except that the first image shows no tracks for it to slide on, and it’s not nearly thick enough to provide the multiple sliding panels that a retractable roof would require, and in any event there would be like a 200-foot-high gap for the setting sun to shine through and get in the eyes of right-handed batters.

“Completing our objective to bring Major League Baseball to Nashville will be a long process. We’re in the very early stages of that process,” Music City Baseball managing director John Loar told the Tennessean, which, tell me about it. The newspaper adds, “The group says it will not seek public money to fund stadium construction or development around the stadium, but has said it wants to explore building on city-owned property (such as that near Nissan Stadium pictured in the renderings) in partnership with the city.” So, we’re looking at a “We’ll build the stadium if you give us a pile of lucrative development rights” plan along the lines of the New York Islanders arena and Los Angeles Angels stadium renovation plans. I, for one, would rather see detailed renderings of who’s going to pay for what rather than these fanciful stadium pictures — but then, that’s exactly why team owners and wannabe team owners choose to release these vaportecture images, the better to misdirect you with.

Friday roundup: Will Royals sale spark new stadium, is Miami asbestos report a Beckham ploy, could developers influence Bills’ future?

Happy last Friday of summer! You’re probably busy getting ready to go somewhere for the long weekend, but if you’re instead staying put (and enjoying the space left by all the people going somewhere for the long weekend), consider spending some time if you haven’t yet reading my Deadspin article on “What’s The Matter With Baseball?“, which interrogates the various theories for MLB’s attendance decline and determines which ones may not be total crap. Do I conclude that it’s all the fault of team owners who’d rather charge rich people through the nose for a lesser number of tickets than try to sell more seats to less deep-pocketed fans? No spoilers!

And now to the news, and lots of it:

  • A new rich guy is buying the Kansas City Royals, and already there’s speculation about whether John Sherman will demand a new stadium when (or before) the team’s Kauffman Stadium lease is up in 2031. The Kansas City Star editorializes that “Kansas Citians should reject any plan that significantly increases public spending for the Royals, either for a new downtown stadium or a ballpark somewhere else,” and further notes that there’s no guarantee a new stadium would even help the Royals’ bottom line (“Winning, it turns out, is more important than a new stadium”), which is all a nice first step; let’s see what happens when and if Sherman actually opens his mouth about his plans.
  • Miami has closed Melreese golf course after determining it had high levels of arsenic and reopened Melreese golf course after environmental officials determined there was nothing “earth shattering” about the pollution levels. And now there’s concern by at least one city commissioner (Manolo Reyes, if you’re scoring at home) that the release of the arsenic findings is part of a ploy by David Beckham’s Inter Miami to get a discount on the lease price of the land, which is still being hashed out. The Miami Herald reports that the team and city are at loggerheads over whether to take environmental remediation costs into account when determining the land value; this epic Beckham stadium saga may have a couple more chapters to go yet.
  • Buffalo developers Carl and William Paladino are really excited about the possibility of a new Bills stadium near land their own, because they could either sell it to the team at an inflated price or develop it themselves once people are excited to live or shop near a new football stadium. (No, I don’t know why anyone would be excited to live or shop near a football stadium only open ten days a year, just go with it.) Carl Paladino once ran for governor of New York, so it’s worth watching to see if he uses his political ties (or skeezy lobbyist friends) to try to influence the Bills’ stadium future.
  • A group trying to get an MLB team for Nashville may not have a stadium or a site or a team, but they do have a name for their vaporteam: the Nashville Stars. Guy-who-wants-to-be-an-MLB-owner John Loar tells the Tennessean he decided on the name “after reading a book on Nashville’s baseball history by author Skip Nipper,” which is presumably this one; the Seraphs, Blues, Tigers, Americans, Volunteers, and Elite Giants honestly all seem like better names than the Stars, which was last used by a franchise in the World Basketball League (the basketball league where tall players weren’t allowed, which, yes, was actually a thing), but it’s really not worth arguing over the name a team that may never exist in our lifetimes.
  • The Richmond city council’s plan to approve spending $350 million on a new downtown arena without consulting the public has hit an apparent snag, which is that four or five members of the nine-member council reportedly oppose the plan, and seven votes are needed to pass it.
  • The editor of the San Francisco Examiner has penned an opinion piece saying the Golden State Warriors‘ new arena is overly opulent and expensive — premium lounges feature wine butlers and private dining rooms, so yeah — but is resigned to this as a necessity (or at least the headline writer is) that it’s “the price we pay for a privately-funded arena.” Which, does anyone really think the Warriors owners would have passed up the chance to charge through the nose for wine butler service if they’d gotten public money? This is the price we pay for rampant income inequality, and don’t you forget it.